In the year 1848, Gerrit Smith made women's sufferage (the right for women to vote and hold office) a plank in the Liberty Party's platform. This began the fight for women to vote in the US. Over seventy years later, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed, giving women the right to vote and hold office throughout the United States. Women didn't end their fight there. Ever since, they've been fighting for equal rights and treatment.
When my aunt married my uncle in 1979, the bank she was a member of automatically added her new husband to her bank account that she'd had for years there. They said it was policy. They said she had no choice. She fought them. It was her money, that she'd worked for, and he had no right to it, and shouldn't be on the account. She was an independent woman, and she wasn't going to be treated as a child with her own money. She could have meekly laid down, and just let them do as they please. She could have just closed the account (affecting her credit rating in the process), and opened a new account with a more enlightened bank. But you know what she did? She wrote the bank's Board of Directors, using her office's letterhead where she was a legal secretary, and informed them that if they did not change their policy, that she was going to file a class action lawsuit against them. They changed their policy, apologized, and even sent her a fruit basket with a nice Thank You card in it, thanking her for pointing out their backwards and illegal policy, and working with them to change with the times. It was a fairly small thing, but she made the world a little better place then. She effected change, and won a victory for women all through the region (I believe it was a regional bank and not a national bank).
Women still don't make as much money as men do for equal work. But it's getting easier to fight against companies with policies that call for paying women less money for equal work. Things are improving. Granted, it's been a hundred and sixty years since the fight for equal rights for women began in this country. It's been a long and slow fight. But a hell of lot of progress has been made. There's still more work to be done, but as a nation and society, we still keep fighting that fight. Today, it would be unthinkable to tell a recently married woman that she has to have her husband on her checking account. It would be unthinkable to tell a woman that she cannot go to college, become a professional, or that she cannot vote. Each of those is something that's been fought for. Don't try telling me that progress cannot be made.
Just look at the progress in gay rights that's been made in the last thirty years. When I was a senior in high school, an admission of being anything other than hetero normative would have brought a hell of a lot worse than bullying; it could potentially get you killed. I saw it with my own eyes. That was over twenty years ago though. Today, most teens, in most US schools, don't feel the need the to hide it from others if they're attracted to their own sex. Gay and lesbians are just plain accepted in modern day society as a fact of life. Twenty years ago, it might have gotten you strung up. Don't try telling me that progress cannot be made.
This nation had a long, and shameful history of slavery. Men and women were mere property, and there were almost no laws whatsoever to protect those slaves. If you beat your slave to death, people just shrugged. If you raped your slaves, the slave was blamed for your transgression. Slaves technically were freed during the when the south was defeated in war that at the time was called The Slavers' Rebellion. It was renamed The Civil War in most places other than the defeated states, some of which obstinately call it "The War of Northern Aggression", despite the fact that the South started the war by succeeding from the union and marching on the North where they fired the first shots in the war. The war ended in 1865. Of course, African Americans weren't given equal rights. They had their right to vote brutally suppressed in the thrice damned South, where whites wearing white robes and masks regularly lynched blacks who fought for fair treatment and voting rights. Ninety years later, in the 1950's, after nearly a century of fighting for their rights, the Civil Rights Movement started in earnest. Nationwide, people got to see the brutality of the whites through a new medium called television. They got to hear people talking about, "Separate but Equal", and the liberal media started to pay attention to the Jim Crow laws that prevented most blacks from voting. People got to see and hear black leaders such as Martin Luther King, Junior. And things changed. It was a hell of fight, but we broke the Klan's back, got rid of the Jim Crow laws, and eliminated segregation. Black people still get the short end of the stick in this country, but things have gotten a hell of a lot better. There's still a ways to go. But don't try to tell me that progress cannot be made.
Progress takes time. It can take a lifetime. It can take generations. But progress can be made. It's made a little at a time. A woman refuses to sit at the back of the bus in the colored section. A woman refuses to accept her husband's name on her bank account. A musician tells a homophobic world in the 1980's that he's gay. It just takes a little bravery, a willingness to buck the trend. It just takes one person to say, "I will not do as you say, nor conform to your bigoted expectations." It's not enough to wish for change. You have to do something. Be the change you hope for. Every little step, every little victory, is a drop in an ocean of progress, and let me tell you something about my country: the tide's coming in.